Stroke Association Campaign about mini-stroke: Not just a funny turn
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Fountain, who played Weatherfield’s Tommy Duckworth in the long-running soap, said: “I woke up one morning and knew something wasn’t right. My mum called me and I just couldn’t get my words out. I started walking round my house looking at things and I could think what the word was, like television or fridge, but I couldn’t say it.” The 35-year-old continued: “I called 111 on my mum’s advice and they sent an ambulance for me; it was so scary.
“I felt stupid because I knew exactly what I wanted to say to the doctors, but I couldn’t get the words out. I was speaking like a toddler, I was really embarrassed.”
He told the Daily Mirror he spent several days undergoing tests at a specialist stroke unit at the Royal London Hospital.
Medics determined the actor had a hole in his heart, which had caused the blood clot to travel to his brain, triggering a stroke.
When Fountain was informed he had a mini stroke, otherwise known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), he broke down into tears.
A hole in the heart
Experts at the Mayo Clinic explained a hole in the heart, which is called a “patent foramen ovale (PFO)”, occurs in around one in four people.
In most cases, the condition doesn’t cause complications, but it can increase a person’s risk of a stroke.
The experts elaborated: “Sometimes small blood clots in veins may travel to the heart.
“They may go through a patent foramen ovale and into the left side of the heart, where they can travel to the brain and block blood flow, causing an ischaemic stroke.”
The NHS says: “In TIAs, the blockage quickly resolves and your brain’s blood supply returns to normal before there’s any significant damage.”
Risk factors for TIAs
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of a TIA
The symptoms of a mini stroke are the same as those of a stroke, but they only last for a few minutes or hours.
The main symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
- Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there, because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to call 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
Any sign of a stroke requires prompt medical attention, so call 999 immediately if you notice anything troubling.
Fountain said his mini stroke diagnosis caused him to feel “sheer panic”.
He thought to himself: “Would I have another one? Would the next one be even worse and I’d lose the use of my arms or legs?
“What’s scary is if I hadn’t have called 111 when I did, and got to hospital so quickly, I don’t know if that clot could have travelled to the wrong place in my brain.
“I could have died. That clot was like a ticking bomb in my head.”
In order to minimise the risk of another stroke, treatment of a TIA might include medications, the NHS adds.
While treatment will be specific to each individual, medication might include statins or anticoagulants.
The former helps to reduce cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of a stroke, while the latter can help to prevent blood clots.
Other measures might include a change in lifestyle habits and, in rare cases, surgery.
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